TILMA, drugs, mental health, land and homelessness haunt premier’s meeting

Wayne Hryniuk is worried about the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement. The mobile labourer was the first to take the mike at Premier…

Wayne Hryniuk is worried about the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement.

The mobile labourer was the first to take the mike at Premier Dennis Fentie’s community tour meeting in Whitehorse on Tuesday night.

“The agreement is wishy-washy,” he said.

For 21 months, Hryniuk was out of the territory working construction.

While away, he had problems getting health care, troubles with his license plates and driver’s license and had problems with guaranteed travel.

It would be great to see the provinces and territories work together to solve some of these issues, he said.

But TILMA is not the answer.

Although it is billed as an agreement that calls for no restrictions on the movement of labour and investment between provinces, it doesn’t tackle Hryniuk’s concerns.

“It doesn’t address any of these issues,” he said.

“I’ve read the whole thing over, and it’s a bad agreement.”

One of Hryniuk’s biggest worries is TILMA’s environmental policy, which states the provinces and territories must follow the lowest or most common regulations.

“I’ve been to Alberta, and it’s scary,” he said.

Alberta and BC have signed on to TILMA.

If the Yukon joins, it will suddenly be following Alberta’s environmental regulations, since they are less restrictive, said Hryniuk.

The Yukon is assessing TILMA, said Fentie.

“We haven’t committed to anything.”

If there is any merit in the agreement then the government “will seek public consultation with a capital C,” he said.

“And we intend to keep our environmental laws — we don’t want somebody else’s.”

When Judy Pakozdy took the floor, she received a warm welcome.

The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society executive director wanted to know what happened to the Children’s Act review.

“I haven’t seen hide nor hair of it,” she said.

It should be ready for tabling in the spring session, said Social Services Minister Brad Cathers.

Pakozdy wasn’t done.

“There is no alcohol-and-drug treatment program for people with (fetal alcohol syndrome),” she said.

“And the existing programs are prescribed so people with (fetal alcohol) can’t get into them.”

This hasn’t changed in the past few years, she said.

Pakozdy also wants to see more supported-housing units for people with disabilities.

“Right now Options for Independence houses five people with (fetal alcohol syndrome),” she said.

“But I know 250 people with (fetal alcohol syndrome) — we need more.”

Affordable housing is a big problem in the territory, said Leslie Roberts, standing up.

“People are living in substandard conditions and under tarps in the bush,” she said.

There is plenty of affordable housing in the territory, said Fentie.

“There is an extensive list throughout the Yukon and we are contributing $50 million toward it.”

Fentie cited the former athlete’s village as one example.

“There has been an explosion in the cost of housing,” said Jim Kenyon, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.

“But the cost of rent has only gone up marginally.”

Rent may not be much higher, but it’s too high for people on welfare, said Pakozdy.

When the issue of youth homelessness was raised, Cathers noted the Yukon funds group homes, counselling services and social assistance.

“The existing programs should be addressing it,” he said.

“But, theoretically, there’s a group of youth who are slipping through the cracks.”

An emergency shelter is not the best solution, added Cathers.

“Ideally we don’t want it dealt with through an emergency shelter. There are other housing programs in place, resources like Family and Children’s Services and group homes.

“So in theory the structure should be addressing the issue.”

Pakozdy knows at least five youth in crisis who don’t have a place to sleep at night.

“I’d hate to think they’d have to wait until spring to find a safe place to sleep,” she said, referencing the delay in funding for a shelter.

“I know young women who go home with any man that offers them a warm bed,” she said.

The lack of dentists in rural Yukon, the problems shipping goods to and from the territory, the difficulty getting aging parents from Outside into Yukon nursing homes and the need for more available land were also raised during the meeting.

A woman who was new to the territory questioned the Justice department and its lack of support for youth struggling with mental health issues.

“There is no psychiatrist,” she said.

“I had to fly my son to BC.”

She also questioned the lack of programming for those struggling with addictions.

“Thirty days is not enough to come off heroin or crystal meth,” she said.

And there are no programs for youth, she added.

“Just arriving here, I am amazed by the number of young people struggling with addictions.”

“Youth mental health is an area of pressure,” said Cathers.

He urged the woman to come speak with him.

“I wrote you a letter,” she said.

She didn’t get a response.